Greetings from the south coast of Portugal!
I'm near the end of my European tour de force with a few final stops in Portugal, and opted for a leisurely walk on the beach here on Armona Island near Olhão while I put some thoughts together for my video blog.
Earlier this week I had a lovely call with a new member of our community, a lifelong solo traveller who was considering joining one of our trips for what would be her first travel experience with a group in her lifetime.
It was quite a fascinating conversation and I very much appreciated the depth of consideration she had for something not terribly far, but far enough outside of her comfort zone.
There is a sort of self-reliant introversion that many solo travellers develop, the product of spending long journeys alone with one's thoughts that, over enough years of repetition, becomes rather difficult to break out of. Even if you want to! Such is the way our habits shape us over the course of our lives.
It all gave me a moment of reflection from the other side of the coin to challenge my own assumptions - why group travel at all? Is it really a better way to see the world?
I think there are all kinds of good reasons to travel solo, and for some it has been and will remain the only way to do it. Those that never do it might consider one solo trip every couple of years or so, to reignite the fire within.
I do a lot of solo travel in between hosting, and almost all of it I absolutely love. And I personally find I need the balance of some solo travel in between trips with groups.
But if you really pressed me to compare them, apples-to-oranges as they may be, I think the dimensions that the shared experience brings to travel elevate the whole experience enough that the peaks of the group experience are higher than the solo experience.
That's a bold statement, and the hardcore solo travellers would no doubt disagree with me! And we'd probably both be right 🙂 I stand by it regardless.
For starters there are many worthwhile experiences that you can't really do solo anyway, like cruising the Mekong or Adriatic, or taking the Rovos train across Africa. To have these experiences you're going to be with others no matter what, and short of going with close friends, a likeminded group is much better than rolling the dice with random strangers.
I also think conversation over dinner while travelling is special in a way that is different from conversation over dinner while back home, and while I can and do strike up many a conversation with strangers on my solo travels, it's rare to get to the level of depth you can get to while on a longer trip with the same people.
And, although those peak, almost spiritual levels of awe happen while solo travelling as well, there's something about sharing that same feeling with another person that I think offers a chance for a higher peak.
Like we were there, we both saw that, that happened, an external validation of the reality of one's experience that shows up in our memories. We remember some things not just by where we were or what we were doing, but also by who we were with.
It's that sympathetic vibration that makes the difference, and ultimately that's what we're after when we send our little groups of travellers out into the world. It is the experience that I think every long time solo traveller should seek out at least once, because by its very nature it cannot come by itself.
Anyway, musings from the beach and this is getting long. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter or any other questions or comments you may have. Be well and stay tuned - lots more to come in the weeks ahead.